Spice Things Up On National Pecan Pie Day

image courtesy of food52

Tomorrow is National Pecan Pie Day! Impress your family and friends with this amazing Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise recipe from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. This isn’t your normal pecan pie; Melissa Clark spices things up and uses maple syrup infused with star anise and rum. This recipe is also a community pick on food 52! I’m a sucker for the smell of freshly baked pies, yum!

( note: this recipe serves 8 )

ingredients for the pie crust:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons ice water

ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup Demerara or raw sugar
  • 8 whole star anise
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons dark aged rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Whipped créme fraiche, for serving

cooking directions:

  1. To make the crust, in a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean-size pieces (three to five 1-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out and baking (up to a week, or freeze for up to 4 months).
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie crust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.
  3. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Freeze the crust for 15minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover the pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (you can use pennies, rice, or dried beans for this; I use pennies). Bake for 20 minutes; remove the foil and weights and bake until pale golden, about 5 minutes more. Cool on a rack until needed.
  4. To make the filling, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup, sugar, and star anise to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is very thick, all the sugar has dissolved, and the syrup measures 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 1 hour for the anise to infuse.
  5. While the syrup is infusing, toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they start to smell nutty, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Remove the star anise from the syrup. Warm the syrup if necessary to make it pourable but not hot (you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds if you’ve moved it to a measuring cup). Do not stir the syrup as you reheat it, as it may crystallize and harden. In a medium bowl, whisk together the syrup, eggs, melted butter, rum, and salt. Fold in the pecan halves. Pour the filling into the crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the pie is firm to the touch but jiggles slightly when moved, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before serving with whipped crème fraiche.

Sweets to the sweet…

Image courtesy of exclusivelyfood.com.au

As the season changes, so do my cravings. Mid-day snacks become sweeter, cookies abound, and I just can’t pass up making the most luscious, gooiest of desserts…Sticky Toffee Date Cake! It is an indisputable fact that any dessert that begins with “Sticky Toffee” is guaranteed to be delicious, but I found this recipe by Ina Garten to be particularly scrumptious. Enjoy!

Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze

For the cake:
¾ pound dates, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ tablespoons baking powder

For the sauce:
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons good bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan.

Place the dates in a deep saucepan with 1¾ cups of water. Bring to boil, stirring a little to break up the dates. Allow to simmer 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the baking soda (it will bubble up!). Set aside.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, scraping down the mixing bowl. (It may look curdled.) Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer still on low, slowly add it to the batter. With the mixer on low, add the hot date mixture in two batches to the batter, scraping down the bowl. The batter will be runny but don’t worry! Stir in the baking powder, which will also bubble up. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the bourbon and vanilla and pour into a 2-cup heat-proof glass measuring cup. Set aside.

As soon as the cake is done, poke holes all over it with a toothpick. Pour three-quarters of the sauce evenly over the cake while still warm and allow it to soak in for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out bottom side up onto a flat serving plate and pour the remaining sauce on top. Cool completely.

Serve at room temperature with sweetened whipped cream.

Beat the Heat with Homemade Ice Popsicles!

Image Courtesy of Vogue.com

Before summer comes to a close, I like to make the most of seasonal produce and flavors that just aren’t as fresh the rest of the year. The perfect way I’ve found to beat the heat is by indulging in a nice cold popsicle. I found this Honeydew-Lime Pop recipe on Bon Appetit and thought it would be a fun activity for you and the whole family. I also enjoyed this recent article from Vogue about ice pops and their evolution. I’m excited to enjoy these next few weeks of summer with my family and indulge a bit with these refreshing icy pops!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups 1″ cubes peeled honeydew melon
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preparation

  • Purée all ingredients and 1/4 cup water in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium pitcher; strain, pressing on solids to extract purée. Divide among molds. Cover; insert ice-pop sticks. Freeze until firm. Dip bottoms of molds into hot water for 20-30 seconds to loosen pops. Remove pops from molds and serve.

How easy does that sound? Do you have any favorite popsicle flavor combinations I should try?

A Patriotic Snack to try this Independence Day

image courtesty of bonappetit.com

I love the look of this red, white and “blue” Blackberry Salad, don’t you? I found this easy Bon Appetit recipe through one of my new favorite sites, SousStyle, and thought it would be perfect for our upcoming Fourth of July festivities. I’m so looking forward to watching the local fireworks show with the family, enjoying some barbeque and trying these out!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries, halved if large

Preparation

  • Whisk oil, herbs, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let return to room temperature before continuing.
  • Gently fold in blackberries.

Et voila! Ready to enjoy. What are some of your favorite things to do to celebrate the 4th?

Celebrating St. Paddy’s Day

Image courtesy of serenebeautyphotos.com

We’re getting ready for St. Paddy’s Day festivities and I can’t wait to celebrate with family and friends. To get in the spirit, we’ll light our Garden Mint candle and the whole family will help bake some delicious Irish Soda Bread. This year, I think we’ll try a new recipe found over on Rachel Ray:

Cranberry Irish Soda Bread with Lime Glaze

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Grated peel and juice of 1 lime

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees . Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups milk and the lemon juice; let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cranberries.
  3. Beat the egg into the milk mixture; stir into the flour mixture until just combined. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until it just comes together; form into an 8-inch round and place on the prepared baking sheet. Using a knife, score a 1/2-inch-deep “X” in the round. Bake until dark golden and crusty, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, lime peel, lime juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon milk. Drizzle the cooled soda bread with the lime glaze.

(6 servings)

How yummy does that sound?

Tell me, what St. Paddy’s Day traditions do you usually look forward to?

Mardi Gras Voodoo

image courtesy of blog.gigmasters.com

With Mardi Gras just around the corner, I am so excited about planning evening festivities to enjoy with family and friends. Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday”, is the day before Ash Wednesday and filled with raucous celebrations, colorful beads adorning the necks of millions of revelers, and of course, breathtaking floats parading through the streets of New Orleans. However, Mardi Gras is about more than just beads, bringing diverse groups of people together to celebrate together. Let the good times roll!

Here’s a recipe I found for a lovely little cocktail to start off your Mardi Gras festivities. Enjoy!
NEELY’S HURRICANE
Ingredients
• Ice cubes
• 2 ounces light rum
• 2 ounces dark rum
• 2 ounces passion fruit juice
• 2 ounces pineapple juice
• 1/2 lime, juiced
• 1 tablespoon grenadine
• 1 orange, sliced into wheels, for garnish
Yields 1 serving

Directions
Fill the hurricane glasses with ice. Mix the rums, passion fruit juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, and grenadine in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into the hurricane glasses. Garnish with a wheel of orange. Cheers!

Favorite Fall recipes & inspired scents

Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Besides the colorful foliage, another thing I look forward to in Fall is breaking out my favorite recipes and sharing them with family and friends. It’s become such a tradition that some of my recipes have even found their way into an inspired food-themed candle like French Pear (inspired by an apple-pear crisp I’ll mention below) and Pumpkin! The pomander candle is one we’ve based on our Swedish family tradition of scoring oranges with fresh cloves to perfume the house for the holidays. They can be put in a beautiful bowl or tied with red ribbon and hung around the house, and the smell is captured perfectly in our wax rendering!

Right now, we’re making lots of soups with seasonal vegetables to keep warm on chilly days. We are also baking pumpkin bread (both regular and gluten/dairy free versions to accommodate my daughter’s gluten allergy) and enjoying hot apple cider. I also just made a delicious apple pear crisp created by one of our favorite cooks, Ina Garten!

I thought you might like to see some of my recipes and I’d love to see yours as well! Here are a few of our favorites:

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter or vegetarian substitute for non-dairy
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour, blend
  • 1.5 cups white rice flour,1.5 cups sorghum flour, .5 cups tapioca starch, 4 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees, and lightly grease a bread pan. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well after each one. Add Vanilla and pumpkin and mix until well-blended. In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Pour into prepared bread pan and bake one hour to one hour and ten minutes. ENJOY!

And here’s the recipe from Ina Garten that I used to make the Apple Pear Crisp. I used the gluten-free flour mix above in place of the multipurpose flour for Gluten Free and substituted the vegan butter for real butter. It is delicious! I also reduced the amount of sugar in the apple/pear mix to half because the fruit should be nice and ripe.

I hope you enjoyed this quick visit to our country kitchen and bon appétit!